WRITTEN BY: SCOTT BROWN | STAFF WRITER
If you want to see a film that is The Shining, but set in colonial America with witches, then The Witch is the film for you.
The Witch, directed by Robert Eggers, tells the story of a 17th century Puritan family who is excommunicated from their church and forced to move out of their community. Having moved to the edge of the forest, the family begins to break apart after an unseen supernatural force starts to torment them.
The Witch is what the horror genre should be, even if the mass audience does not realize it. With an 89% critic rating, but only a 52% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this is truer than I want to admit. The Witch is a film that many will not enjoy because they will not believe it is “scary” due to the lack of jump scares throughout the runtime of the film. Instead, the film relies on a gradual build of suspense and tension that audience members are given no respite from, which is what horror should be.
The biggest aspect of why this film worked so well was the leadership by first-time director Robert Eggers. He crafted a movie that is more of a family drama than anything else, which made me understand these characters more and made me more worried for their well-being.
The family members were not just shells of characters with no actual traits that were killed in gory fashions, but they were instead broken people who were terrified of not only the witch, but also of life and death. Eggers was able to build tension by using shots that suggested more than they showed which, in my opinion, is scarier than actually showing something. The way Eggers also used the score to create a sense of uneasiness is fantastic as well. Ultimately, his superb directing brought out incredible performances from each of his actors.
The performances throughout the film were excellent, and the members of the family each seemed incredibly realistic. Whether it was the parents, William and Katherine (Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie), the oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), or the young twins, Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson), each of the cast members did exactly what was needed to create real characters and play up the suspense and tension of the scenes when they needed to. The family aspect, though, was one of the few flaws I found with the movie as a whole.
While the film was able to create tension and suspense throughout and never let the audience go, that does not mean that there were some scenes that were simply boring. Some of the early family scenes where they are having simple conversations, while well-acted, were simply not interesting and felt that they dragged on for longer than they actually did. There is also some heavy-handed symbolism, mainly a black goat Lomans should know what this stands for that bothered me, but the conclusion used this symbolism very effectively and I can forgive it for being heavy-handed.
Overall, The Witch is a very well- made horror film that is The Shining meets Colonial America, and I believe everyone should see it to truly learn what horror should be.
PHOTO COURTESTY OF I.YTIMG.COM